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Created: February 27, 2004 Latest Update: February 29, 2004
Jeanne and Pat will not be in Wednesday this week because of expected traffic problems. Dubya will be in town. We'll be in at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, 2004.
South African Landscape:
Conceptual Art and Banking Education
Topic of the Week:
Why South Africa? Well, because I was walking past one of my paintings, standing on its side, and all of a sudden I saw it differently. I wasn't just looking at what was there, and seeing it as I was supposed to, as a South African Landscape. I had a piece of corrugated paper in front of, partially cut out, framing a section of the painting.
As this was Friday, and time for a new issue, and a new painting, it seemed like a perfect time to try conceptual art. First I just repainted here what I saw:
About then my husband, Arnold, came in and asked why the trees were growing sideways. He had a point. I guess I had been a little too literal at copying the landscape of a train moving across South Africa. The red and aqua are train cars. Besides, I didn't like the painting that way. So I softened the trees and stuff a little:
Arnold still saw trees. Actually, so did I. Desperate, I turned the tree into a triangle, and said "So there!" I got rid of the tree that way, but there wasa problem with the composition. The eye wasn't led anywhere. So I popped a little sun in the lower left hand corner, creating a line from lower left to upper right.
Still didn't work. The sky didn't fit with the other two-thirds of the painting. Hmm. Giving up my beautiful cloud work, I treated the sky the way I had the desert land itself. Now I was satisfied. Besides, Arnold wanted dinner.
The point to all this: some of us look at paintings interactively some of the time. When we do that we are melding the message captured and conveyed by the artist with our own experience and context. If I had seen the South African Landscape above, without knowing the origin and meaning of the painting, I would not have understood the message. The process of encoding and decoding the message of art fits into conceptual art.
The message of my original painting, of which you see only a small detail above, was that the beauty of the South African landscape is marred by the violence of the context. The train cars have barbed wires for wheels in the original. And those train cars are recycled as homes in black townships. Nonetheless, the beauty of the landscape is undeniable, even within the context of the brightly colored train cars that cross it.
As I chose to abstract that painting for this week, what comes through for me is the beauty and happiness of the landscape. What might I change or add or put into another painting that might capture the rest of what I was trying to say?
For some, the abstract painting in itself is enough. Interpassivity. They're not involving themselves with the conceptual meaning of the work. They're enjoying it, as is, for itself, little thought involved. But if you engage interactively with the work, then you need to know more about the significance of the forms and colors used, if you want to get the message the artist wanted to convey.
Added February 28, 2004: From the abstracted forms and colors you can tell, without going beyond the four corners of the painting, the joy and beauty, the good feelings, and that there was bright color in the landscape, not just traditional brown, green, and blue of sky and land. But to know that it was South Africa and that I was seeing contrasts and conflicting contexts, you needed to know something of the artist and the social context of South Africa. Freire would call that "banking knowledge," the kind of learning of facts and history and social stories that we share through socialization. What I'm trying to show you here is that you may be able to interpret a painting differently with the "banking education" of art history and the the history of South Africa. But you may also choose to enjoy the painting at a different level, one that limits itself to the four corners of the painting. You might also be able to enjoy the painting more deeply if you knew me and my social philosophy of justice. But I hope the painting will stand on its own, and convey the message of joy in a modern industrialized landscape without that personal knowledge.
There is no right or wrong to that. Interpassivity is as important as interactivity. We must make choices in what we attend to. But we should recognize the difference. And if we are planning to paint to express something, we need to consider our potential audience, their likely banked knowledge, their culture, and their relation to the painting and the artist. The more we rely on these additional contexts of knowledge to convey the message the painting holds, the closer we are to conceptual art, at least as I understand it.
That was my problem with Beuys' Chair of Fat. I didn't know that he had been wounded in the Second World War and nursed back to health by Turkish Kurds (Tartars?) who wrapped him in fat and felt to warm him. That would explain why fat signified for him nurture, warmth, and humanity in interpersonal relationships. But I'd never get that just by looking at his chair. Two views of the chair:
. . . .
Maybe with this understanding you'd enjoy a comic: Cat and Girl versus Modern Art.
Be sure to check the New file for news of what's going on and for assignments. Assignments are added with date of addition at jeanne's class assignments.
Also, please remember that none of you will have the time to read all this theory in depth. Focus on that theory that relates directly to your project, so that you can discuss it at the exhibit.
You can also check Daily Site Additions to see what files I've been working on or put up each day. jeanne
Syllabus for Naked Space, Spring 2004 Exhibit
- Assignments for Exhibit classes Several assignments are up, including one for graduate study.
Plans for Comprehensive Exams Study Group
- Assignments for Study Group Two assignments are up.
Many more paintings, many pictures, many stories, soon.
love and peace to all, jeanne
A Range of Sources on Global Events
Left/Right Perspectives - Cursor - New York Times
Arts and Letters Daily - The Economist - The Guardian
Wall Street Journal -The Weekly Standard - The Nation
Los Angeles Times - Chicago Tribune - The Washington Post
Cursor's Al Jazeera Archive - Ha'aretz - Palestine Monitor
Indymedia - Mother Jones - BBC News - New Profile
Progressive Sociologists Network
Using Academic Language Effectively:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:
Dictionary of Critical Sociology
Maintained by Robert E. Mazur, Associate Professor, Iowa State University, Sociology.
Words of Art: Front Page
Wonderful Fine Arts dictionary at Okanagan University College in Canada.
Will cover many of the terms social theory shares with literary theory.
Today's Word: From the Word.A.Day Site